5G phone boxes and poles across the United Kingdom and other European nations have been subject to arson attacks in recent weeks. The reason? A false conspiracy theory linking the spread of coronavirus to telecom equipment. Now one 5G corona conspiracy believer has been jailed for his actions.
Michael Whitty, 47 and a father of three, set fire to the equipment box of a Vodafone pole in Kirkby, Merseyside in April. While two other people had been seen fleeing the scene, they were not caught. Instead, Whitty pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court.
“In my view there was here a high degree of planning and premeditation. There was use of firelighters and, in the sense that the aim was to put the mast out of action, there was intent to cause very serious damage to property,” said Judge Thomas Teague at the hearing.
Conspiracy of Dunces
According to CNET, it is “categorically not true” that 5G can cause or spread COVID-19. “Scientists have said there is no evidence 5G can harm your health, and the theory has also been debunked by independent fact checker Full Fact.”
Nevertheless, Whitty’s attack is not an isolated incident. At least 20 of Vodafone’s towers have been attacked, disrupting communications, as have other telecarriers in the UK and Europe. These attacks included the tower for a field hospital set up to treat COVID-19 patients, preventing dying patients from being able to communicate with loved ones.
The reason for the 5G corona conspiracy misinformation? Celebrities. The Sun notes that among many others there is notably:
- Woody Harrelson posted a warning on Instagram. Fans quickly disproved his theory.
- Singer MIA urged the government via Twitter to “turn off” 5G until after the pandemic.
- Boxer Amir Khan released a series of videos blaming the coronavirus on the building of “5G towers”.
So where did the theory come from?
According to The Sun, “The theory originated last month after a video filmed at a US health conference claimed Africa was not as affected by the disease because it is ‘not a 5G region.'” This was quickly debunked when the World Health Organization confirmed there were thousands of COVID-19 cases in Africa.
Nevertheless, there are still believers out there.
Maybe Not the End
While authorities believe that sending Whitty to jail will send a strong message, not everyone agrees. Threats are still being made toward telecom companies and their workers, and conspiracy groups are still spreading belief on the internet.
So could the attacks continue? Only time will — and perhaps a vaccine — will tell.